There has been so much hullaballoo over the weekend Sadc resolution “asking” President Robert Mugabe, via Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, to go back to the Constitutional Court (Concourt) and seek an extension of the July 31 poll deadline that the court issued two weeks ago.
LandScape with Tangai Chipangura
What we have been told is that the Sadc suggestion was that the extension be for two weeks because the complaint by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and company was that the July 31 date would have “eaten away” two weeks of the Constitution-given voter registration period.
Mugabe was on the news talking about the “one or two weeks” period and saying he “hoped” this would satisfy his opponents.
There was celebration frenzy among those opposed to Mugabe’s unilateral election proclamation — so much pomp one would have been excused to believe a catch to a Zanu PF victory had been found and destroyed.
But, other than token defeat of Mugabe’s schoolboy showboating — “I beat you to the keys” contest with Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube — in my view, the Maputo Sadc outcome is of little significance to the issue of elections in Zimbabwe.
To begin with, there is no guarantee the Concourt will heed the Sadc resolution – especially given the fact that it takes more than just fertile imagination to expect Chinamasa to approach the court with a lot of keenness, or enough of it to move the judges into considering his application or appeal.
There is an argument too that the court may not feel compelled to even hear the case for various reasons — including that, with Mugabe having already complied with the ruling, the case is water under the bridge.
But more than that, of what practical significance is the Sadc resolution given the state of Zimbabwe’s election preparedness? Is it the two-week extension that Zimbabwe really wanted — waited and looked forward to ahead of the meeting of the Sadc heads of state? Or was it just a schoolboy fight for the so-called electoral keys that got people so excited?
Unless Mugabe’s opponents can straighten the crucial voter registration process within the added 14 days, then there is really nothing to celebrate about. Needless to say, security, media and other reforms will not happen — implemented — in that two weeks, but that is not an issue Zimbabweans facing imminent polls can lose sleep over.
What Tsvangirai, Ncube and others that appear to be itching for a coalition, want to be worried about is the issue of voter registration. They should place all their effort on ensuring that prospective voters are allowed to register and for those that registered in previous elections, to check if their names still appear on the roll.
What we seem to read from what is going on in this process is that there is a grand plan to bar people from voting.
It began with the unilateral and unconstitutional decision by the Office of the Registrar-General to reduce the number of registration days per ward from 30 to three. The exercise is also no longer happening in every ward, but several wards are now being combined and are expected to register at one centre, making people travel long distances — maybe five wards away — to register.
The result is that many thousands of prospective voters will not go to register — or to check if their names are on the roll. It’s an issue where, instead of encouraging people to register, they are actually discouraged by distance and the reported bottlenecks found at registration centres where registering officers are taking up to 15-20 minutes dealing with just one person.
They are said to be on “go-slow” — whether by political design or not, we can’t tell, but the result is that people are not going to register!
One school of thought says this is the real grand plan by Zanu PF —grander than the most formidable alliance Tsvangirai and gang may dream of — bigger than any security, media or other reform the group may hope to salvage out of any Sadc meeting!
It is said the two million signatures that Zanu PF collected in 2011, ostensibly to make a case against sanctions, have been registered as voters.
Zanu PF believes signatories to that petition are its supporters and, therefore, would ordinarily vote for the party. Information collected in that petition included full names, addresses and wards of the signatories and is, therefore, enough to get people registered.
With two million registered voters in its pocket, does Zanu PF need any more people registered, especially in urban areas? May this then explain this apparently deliberate political plot to scuttle smooth voter registration in urban centres?
Is this not an area that Tsvangirai and company need to explore deeper than chasing coalitions or reforms that will not happen?
With this strategy in place,who would want to use the security sector for electoral violence — especially with world tourism conference on Zimbabwe’s doorstep?
But then, it is useful advice to Zanu PF not to shut out voter registration in the belief that they have two million voters in their pocket, because not all the signatures were given voluntarily.
It is naive to believe that a party that performed the way it did in March 2008 would all of a sudden become so popular!